July 21, 2016

things that make me love doing dishes (and a freebie!)...

Caldrea giveaway | yourwishcake.comWhen we moved from our beloved duplex to our current apartment, I went from having a dishwasher to essentially becoming a human dishwasher. I now do a sink full of dishes at least three times a day (sometimes four, if I feel like getting ahead of the game and/or feeling like a domestic goddess). Some days, it feels like an endless cycle, but overall it's not that dreadful. Having a dishwasher now feels like a luxury and not a necessity, but perhaps you should ask me if my feelings have changed if we ever have five children. (You should know I only mentioned the five children thing to freak out my husband, should he ever actually read my blog. Of course, with five children, at least a few of them would become our dishwashing minions, so...)

In any case, in a strange turn of events, dish washing has become a very odd form of "me time"—which I'm sure would make many-a-woman cringe in this day and age. But, hey! I've come to terms with the fact that most days I just won't have any time to myself. For now, at least. Until our youngest is sleeping well enough at night for me to consistently wake up early every morning, I have to relish any and all moments throughout the day when I am somewhat alone and able to indulge in something I enjoy.

Because of this, I've come up with three ways to trick myself into looking forward to doing dishes:

1. I listen to a bunch of podcasts, and love saving my favorites until I have a sink of pans to scrub. My current two favorites are ones I'm sure I've mentioned before: The Popcast (witty banter and pop culture goodness) and What Should I Read Next (I've found so many great book recommendations on this one).

2. I always try to have at least a couple audiobooks to listen to when I'm fresh out of new podcast episodes. I've mentioned the Overdrive app before, but if you haven't used it before, you must do so immediately. You connect your library card to the app, then you can listen to audiobooks (and also borrow ebooks) for 100% free. I also recently downloaded Hoopla, which is very similar and equally awesome.

3. Buying dish soap that smells like heaven kind of makes my life complete (and a sink full of dishes easier to wash). I used to buy the cheapest thing I could find at the grocery store, but since I started ordering from Grove Collaborative, I decided that ordering dish soap that made me happy could be one of those little indulgences in life that I could totally rationalize. Two of my favorites are Method's clementine scent, as well as Mrs. Meyer's honeysuckle scent.
This month, I was able to order some new products Grove Collaborative recently started carrying. I hadn't heard of the Caldrea brand before now, but goodness do they smell incredible and look beautiful sitting on my kitchen counter. I chose the tangelo palm frond scent, which is fancy for orangey-summertime-goodness. Part of me would be okay with using the countertop spray as perfume, but that may be frowned upon. (Unfortunately.)

This week, I'm teaming up with the lovely folks at Grove Collaborative to offer new customers their own set of products to make your own dish washing adventures a little more enjoyable!

Through Sunday, July 24th at 6PM, new customers will receive the following items free with any order of $20 or more:
  • Free Caldrea countertop spray
  • Free Caldrea dish soap
  • Free Grove Collaborative dish brush
  • Free shipping
And any current customers will receive a free Grove Collaborative dish brush with their next order—just click here to add it to your cart.

As always, supplies are limited, so be sure to order soon if you want to receive this freebie (worth over $30). Here's how to sign up:

1. Sign up for Grove Collaborative here and you will receive the Caldrea offer for free!

2. Answer 4 quick questions about your home that Grove Collaborative will then use to customize your products—this takes under 30 seconds!

3. Once you’ve answered the questions, you can finalize your basket of products to suit your household needs by adding or removing items.

4. To receive this offer, your order needs to be a minimum of $20. Choose the combination of products and scents you love and receive in your first box.

5. You made it! Click Finish + Pay and place your order.

You don't have to order anything beyond the first $20 order, and you're free to cancel any time after your initial order. If you continue to use Grove Collaborative, they will send you an email each month before anything ships, so you can either empty your basket and skip that month's shipment, or add anything you happen to need to your order (from beauty products to baby diapers to cleaning products galore). I've used them for quite some time and have been very, very happy with the service, prices and referral program!

Let me know if you end up ordering, and what you think! Here's to many happy dishwashing evenings all-around! (Until it hits 90+ degrees later this week. Hold me close, young Tony Danza.)

Affiliate links included in this post; view my disclosure policy here.

July 12, 2016

maybe I've always been a homeschool mom...

Every time I think about homeschooling Eisley this autumn for her kindergarten year, I feel a little more excited that I think I should be. Shouldn't there be a bit of fear or insecurity or second-guessing the entire thing? Shouldn't there be more worry about whether or not I'm making the right choice—about whether or not she'll have enough friends, socialization, educational challenges? Because truly, I don't generally worry about any of that. And perhaps that's the greatest indication that the choice we're making is the best choice after all.

I technically homeschooled Eisley for preschool this past year, but there have been times I've thought that maybe I can't say that officially. She didn't have desk time (or, you know, kitchen table time) five days a week, and I don't have a drawer overflowing with her completed art projects. However, the more reading and research I do on teaching young children and the benefits of homeschooling, the more I'm realizing that I've essentially been homeschooling her in one way or another for her entire life. School isn't necessarily let's-sit-down-and-do-this-workbook or recite-for-me-the-ABCs or it's-time-for-sight-word-flash-cards. The biggest things my daughter has learned in the past four years (almost five, come to think of it) have been the result of intentionally making learning a part of daily life—whether or not we were sitting at the kitchen table with a workbook or not.

We read several times a day (I read about to her before rest time and bedtime, and she reads to herself throughout the day), we work on math skills and phonics at the library or in the kitchen or while driving to the grocery store, I'm able to address social issues and character qualities based on whatever we are faced with on any given day, she writes thank-you notes with help, we look at maps, she helps me measure ingredients while baking a special treat, she runs around the apartment measuring things with a measuring tape, we do puzzles and games and, yes, workbooks.

I purposely kept things simple for her preschool year for a few reasons—the main one being that I knew adding a baby to our daily routine last year was going to be a challenge, and I didn't feel like checking off a bunch of boxes for school every weekday would be beneficial to anyone (and honestly, I didn't need another checklist in my life). What I did end up doing was making a list of goals for her preschool year. I wanted her to learn to read, to count to 100, to work on bible memorization, to work on character qualities, to write upper and lowercase letters and be able to write a sentence, and a couple other things. Everything else aside from those would be icing.

And even with all the madness of the past year—even with moving, having a baby, dealing with stress and sleepless nights and struggles with defiance—I was almost shocked this summer when I revisited this list and realized we had accomplished 100% our goals. Not by a rigid schedule, but mostly making learning an active part of our life at home. Of our life anywhere we happen to be.

It's crossed my mind a lot during the last year, how I've kind of always been a homeschool mom. I've always had a teaching mentality, regardless of what I'm doing with my daughters or where we happen to be—something I'm confident I learned from my own mom, who was always teaching my sisters and I, even when we were in public and private schools throughout our younger childhood.

For the past school year, the best moment was when Eisley learned to read. She has known letter sounds for years now, and we were beginning to work on sight words when one day it just clicked. This spring, she picked up a book we hadn't read in ages and surprised me by reading the entire thing—needing help with only a few words. I knew reading was just around the corner for her, but seeing her just do it without prompting from me was incredible. Being there for that moment was the best. And since that day, her vocabulary and comprehension and ability to read a book with gusto (yes, this is important to me, too) have all continued to improve at an incredible rate. Which made me realize that there are times a child can learn to read—possibly the most important, landmark skill of childhood—without being "taught" to read. We've been laying the groundwork for years, but it's not as though I did any curriculum specifically to teach her this skill. Hour upon hour of reading aloud every single day, and making books a priority and a joy—those things are what taught her to read.

Which is a little odd as a teaching parent, because I feel like I should have somewhere specific to point when explaining how my daughter learned to read in preschool. It's almost as though she taught herself to do it, and all I had to do was read her stories every day. (It feels lazy, when I know it's the exact opposite of laziness.) I read recently that this is the way many children end up learning to read, which I never expected. And after a recent conversation with my mom, I learned that I started reading at age four in the exact same way.

This is not a broad, sweeping statement on every child and every family. One thing I'm sure of is that homeschooling is not for every child and every family—and even if we homeschool during these early years, there's no knowing what the future holds for us. You do what fits. And if homeschooling fits, you then move forward and figure out how each of your children learn best. And you figure out how you teach best. And from what I hear from veteran homeschool parents, you just move and shift and try and fail and succeed and take it one year (or month, or week, or day) at a time.

Which feels a lot like regular parenting, honestly.

I'm obviously brand new to homeschooling as a parent, so I don't claim to speak with much experience or authority, but I did have the benefit of being homeschooled myself from 6th grade through high school, and I am friends with several second-generation homeschoolers. I am very familiar with the arguments for and against homeschooling, and I count myself lucky to know other homeschool graduates—well-rounded, intelligent, socially-adjusted, and college educated women, at that. And many of these women are choosing to homeschool their own children. Which is kind of fantastic.

I'm sure I'll be writing more about this as we begin our first "official" year of homeschooling this fall. (In our state, children don't have to be enrolled in school until age 6, so we have another year of doing school without having to report anything we do. Next year will hold its own set of challenges, for sure!) But for now, I just have to say that I'm so excited. I can't wait to begin a more structured (but still relaxed) school year with Eisley, and to see all she's going to learn. I'm also eager to begin some tot-school activities with Cora as she gets older during the upcoming school year.

But, for now, before I get ahead of myself, I just had to share that it feels good to be confident in this decision. I know that for now, for our family, for me as a mom, for my daughter...that this is the best choice. And actually, an easy one to make.

July 11, 2016

conversations with Eisley (part nine)...

Eisley (singing her version of a Taylor Swift classic): He's the reason for the teardrops on my guitar! The only reason for the chicken on my wishing star!

Eisley (eating a nectarine): These make my eyes juicy.

Eisley (trying to be polite at dinner): I'm not very impressed by these chicken nuggets. But...I like them.

Eisley (enthusiastically helping me clean out the fridge): The is the funnest day in my whole entire history!

Eisley (looking at a library book): I didn't think that super heroes could have blue eyes.
Me: Why not?
Eisley: It's just a little...tacky.

Little girl at library: What is your name again?
Eisley: Eisley.
Little girl at library: Um...I'm going to all you Isaiah. Or Leslie.
Eisley: Okay!

Eisley (clearing her plate after dinner): Thank you for that delicious dinner, mom! I'm all finished!
Me: Finished? Looks like there are still some bites left.
Eisley: I know...that's just for the flies to eat.

Eisley: I wish I could hug the whole entire city! But I can't, because my hands aren't big enough.

— Further reading: More conversations with Eisley here